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What is Edge Computing?

Define: Edge Computing

Edge computing uses cloud based services to compute data near or at the source of the request. It is a location based concept that distributes cloud computations based on proximity.

Evolution of Computing

The tech world is constantly evolving. Many years ago, computing power was primarily housed on large servers, with ‘dummy terminals’ accessing limited resources remotely. Over time, the cost and availability (not to mention the size reduction) of computers got to the point where it was no longer necessary to access a powerful server from a simple terminal.

This led to the computing revolution where just about everyone had a PC of some type in their home. For a long time, computer function, had to be executed within the PC itself. The next step in computer evolution was remote access to information via the internet. However, computing power and storage would remain local.

While this is still largely the standard today, most recently, we have seen a shift towards a new standard known as edge computing. In this format, devices will have their own processing power and storage capacity. But they will rely heavily on more powerful computers located remotely. This is already quite common with large scale gaming platforms. Players will all access a game on their individual device, but still interact with other players through a shared server. In these cases, the remote server doesn’t have to be physically near the players (though that certainly helps).

With true edge computing, remote servers are located geographically close to user. Due to demand for extremely fast response times. Having a device send and receive data to location thousands of miles away only takes a fraction of a second today, but that is far too long for edge computing.

Examples of Edge Computing

Companies that advantage of edge computing make it easy to see why the near instant response times are so important. The following edge-based technologies are already being used, or will be in the near future:

  • Virtual Reality – When interacting with people through virtual reality, response time is extremely important. VR requires large amounts of data, being geographically close to the servers can make a huge difference in load times.
  • Autonomous Driving – Vehicles that are driving themselves need to have a constant connection to a central server that can provide updates on road conditions, traffic issues, and much more. When it comes to self-driving cars, lag time of even a small fraction of a second can mean the literal difference between life and death.
  • Oil Rigs – Oil rigs, both onshore and offshore, are surprisingly advanced when it comes to the technology they use. They need to gather a lot of information, have it analyzed, and get it back to ensure the facility runs without a problem. The closer the data processing locations can be to the rig itself, the better the results.
  • Internet of Things – Perhaps the largest segment that will be using edge computing is the internet of things devices. These include everything from ‘smart’ watches to smart appliances, and much more. There are millions of these devices on the market already, and the trend is just starting. While each individual device only generates a relatively small amount of data, the combined amount will be simply massive. Being able to keep the distance the data needs to travel to a minimum will help avoid latency and avoid network congestion that could impact other environments.

Future Expansion

There are many other things that will benefit from edge computing as well, and undoubtedly more being developed all the time. With such a clear need for edge computing locations, data center companies will continue to build or acquire small to mid-sized facilities. While a massive data center in a huge city like Chicago could serve as a good edge computing opportunity, that can’t be said for smaller cities.

In most countries around the world, there are many smaller population areas that aren’t at all close to major cities. It isn’t practical to build a massive data center in a town with only a hundred thousand people. This is where the smaller to mid-sized facilities can be ideal. These facilities can serve as colocation centers for services that require edge computing, and also, help to relieve network congestion that is becoming a bigger problem each year. As edge computing becomes more and more popular, we can expect to see these types of centers popping up around the world.